We Are Not Alone

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Sonny steer at Farm Sanctuary

I turned around and Sonny was there.

I was having a really sad day. I decided to walk up the hill to find my best pal, a steer named Sonny. For five minutes straight, I just hugged him, wetting his neck with possibly a gallon of tears. Knowing I had to get back to work, I finally parted with him and walked down the hill toward the shelter buildings.

After a while, I heard a noise and turned. Sonny had left the herd and followed me. He knew I needed him, so he was there.

Just like us, animals need to feel that they are not alone. During my two decades in animal sheltering, I have witnessed the power of family and friendship every single day. All creatures have a will to live, and friendship motivates them to live their best, supported by and supporting others.

Here are my favorite examples from the past year.

Farm Sanctuary sheep residents Tracey, Louise, Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer

Louise, Tracey, Hazelton, Reubie, and Summer enjoying a beautiful day at sanctuary.

In February, three lambs were born at our New York Shelter. Far along in their pregnancies when they were rescued from neglect, mamas Tracey and Louise (Tracey’s daughter) faced high-risk deliveries, but with the help of devoted shelter staff, everyone made it through. Tracey, who delivered son Hazelton first, supported Louise during the birth of twins Reubie and Summer, calling out to the younger ewe throughout her labor. Tracey also nursed Summer when Louise couldn’t produce enough milk for both twins.

As dairy sheep, Tracey and Louise endured repeated impregnation. Though Tracey was allowed to keep Louise, all of her sons were likely taken away to be sold for slaughter. Hazelton was the first son she was allowed to keep, and she wasn’t about to let anything happen to him. When we introduced the group to our main flock, Tracey immediately began putting everyone in their place, head-butting even the largest males, so all knew that her family was not to be bothered.

Sheep express affection and devotion primarily through physical closeness, which is why you’ll find this family sticking together and sleeping side-by-side at night. For Tracey and her clan, sanctuary means being together.

Romy lamb and Levi goat at Farm Sanctuary

Levi, right, with his best friend Romy

Levi was found loose in NYC after escaping from a storefront slaughterhouse. During his first weeks at sanctuary, he stayed indoors sitting on a hay bale. We feared this behavior arose from health issues, but it turned out that Levi, who had likely witnessed the slaughter of his herd mates, was simply too terrified to do much of anything. Though we approached him with gentleness and care, he could not trust us.

That all changed when he met Romy, a lamb who came to us from a small farm where he was found alone and dying in the cold rain. When Romy was finally well enough to go outside into his yard, Levi couldn’t help coming out into his own adjacent yard to investigate. Within hours, the little goat who had been paralyzed by fear was running, jumping, and kicking up his heels as he played with his new best friend.

Following the lead of gregarious Romy, Levi has become a whole new goat, bravely walking right up to human visitors. His friendship with Romy has transformed him, and his world, once limited to the corner of a hospital pen, has gotten a whole lot bigger.

Calvin, Vince, and Paul Harvey goats at Farm Sanctuary

Vince, center, with his best friends Calvin, left, and Paul Harvey.

Vince had a rough start in life. Born at a goat dairy — a male kid in an industry that has very little use for males — he was used as partial payment to a tree trimmer. But the tree trimmer didnʼt want him either, and went door-to-door in his neighborhood trying to sell him. Things started to look up for Vince when he was taken in by a kind woman who wanted to protect him, but she soon discovered that her little charge was very sick. She contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we were able to get Vince the care he needed, which included antibiotics, tube feedings, and medication for his pain. Slowly but surely, he began to feel better, and he was finally able to leave the veterinary hospital and come home to our Acton shelter. But goats are herd animals; Vince was lonely as the new and only kid at the shelter.

Fortuitously, we learned that a combination goat dairy/sanctuary is phasing out their dairy business to focus on their sheltering work. Though the sanctuary’s operators initially intended to support their sheltering work by selling dairy products from the goats in their care, they eventually realized that this model was not sustainable. Goats, like all other mammals, must be impregnated in order to lactate. That means that goat dairies produce not only milk but also baby goats. The facility had more goats than it could handle.

Enter Calvin and Paul Harvey, the best friends Vince could have hoped for! The trio has become a source of endless entertainment for sanctuary guests and staff. One of their favorite games is bouncing off caregivers who are bent over or lying on the ground with them. Buoyed by the friendship they share and the caring people all around them, the kids are keen to explore and experiment. For these best friends, the sanctuary is the best kind of playground.

Anna & Maybelle piglets at Farm Sanctuary

Anna & Maybelle — the best of friends and sweet as can be! Follow their adventures in their new home at The Daily Squeal!

Anna and Maybelle had likely fallen off a transport vehicle before they were spotted wandering on a busy roadside. Piglets are notorious for squirming their way out of trailers, and they sometimes fall out onto the road without the driver even noticing (this in addition to the countless piglets and other farm animals who end up on the road when transport vehicles crash or overturn); many of our residents came to us after these accidents. Such incidents can be fatal for the young animals, but Anna and Maybelle were lucky enough to avoid being seriously injured in the fall or getting hit by another vehicle. They also had each other, which was surely a comfort during their two frightening days by the roadside. Right now, these piglets’ lives are all about exploration and fun — and each other. They play and dig and run with utter abandon, and they are always together. When separated for even a few moments, they squeal and run to search for one another. When we watch them romping and rooting, we recognize a common joy in simply being alive.

There are so many other beautiful bonds that we’ve seen over the years. It saddens me that the majority of industry-raised animals are deprived of these experiences, but at Farm Sanctuary, we take the time to nurture these ties that mean so much to our animal residents. We recognize that our animal residents share so much in common with us: awareness, intelligence, rich emotional lives. Just like us, they crave companionship, playmates, and a support network — and making sure they have it is a vital part of the Farm Sanctuary life.

Remembering Joey

Joey enjoying the pasture

Joey enjoying pasture time at Farm Sanctuary.

This month we said goodbye to Joey, a goat who had called our New York Shelter home since 2007. If you ever visited the shelter, you probably remember Joey. He was usually one of the first members of his herd to approach guests, and he loved attention.

Joey joined the shelter family when he was just six months old. He was found wandering the streets of Brooklyn with a slaughter tag from Texas in his ear, likely having escaped from one of the city’s live markets. These storefront slaughterhouses are notorious for keeping animals in unsafe and terrifying conditions before slaughtering them onsite. Luckily, Joey escaped and found a home where he could be loved without reservation.

It took a while, however, for Joey to warm up to us. It’s likely that Joey witnessed the slaughter of other animals, perhaps even family members, before his escape. When he arrived at sanctuary, he was terrified of everyone. We had to place him  in a special pen with high walls, so he would not jump out. Even when he finally joined a herd of goats, he was so frightened that, on his first day, he scrambled over a fence and wedged himself behind a fuel tank. Thankfully, he was unharmed. It took about six months for Joey to finally realize that he was among friends and truly safe.

That realization transformed Joey. Eventually, he felt so at ease here that when he napped, he really checked out. He was notorious for snoring and groaning as he enjoyed a deep doze. Every time we welcomed a new shelter staffer, intern, or tour guide, we would inevitably get a worried call over the radio about a goat who was “down and making weird sounds.” It was just Joey at peak relaxation.

Joey goat

Joey, with his friendly, outgoing personality, was a special favorite of many Farm Sanctuary visitors.

When he was still young, Joey lived with a group of female goats and became utterly smitten with a doe named Cocoa Bean, who was several years his senior (staff joked that he was into older women). The two slept by each other’s sides every night. Even when this group was integrated with the sheep flock, which was also home to several goats closer to Joey’s age, Joey remained devoted to Cocoa Bean, staying by her side even as old age slowed her down.

In his prime, Joey was huge, one of the biggest goats on the shelter, but he was also gentle. When he first joined the sheep flock, the group was led by Dino, a much smaller goat. We’d placed Dino with the sheep because he was not quite strong enough to contend with the hardier goats in the main herd. Among goats, hierarchy is typically determined through contests of strength, and if Joey had wanted to oust Dino, he could have. But Joey never once made a move on the position, even when Dino was further weakened by geriatric health troubles. Only when Dino passed away did Joey take over the lead. Though he had never felt compelled to fight for leadership, Joey stepped into the role adeptly and became an excellent leader to the herd. When the sheep were on the move, you could count on finding Joey out in front.

From a youth spent snuggling with his sweetheart to maturity as head of the heard, Joey experienced the full arc of life at sanctuary before arriving to old age. As Joey aged, he developed a spinal cord condition that caused ataxia, and his hind limbs gave out when he attempted to rise or walk. The condition gradually worsened, and we even attempted to outfit him with a special cart/wheelchair designed for goats. He was no longer able to run at the front of the herd; he had to follow, ever so slowly, behind. Just as he had once supported Cocoa Bean when her pace slowed, Joey now received support from his friend Clarabell. She stayed by his side on the way to pasture in the morning and back to the barn at night, even though it meant a very long, slow journey each way.

Clarabell and Joey

Joey, front, with his devoted friend Clarabell.

Joey met his changing condition with equanimity, and through the help of the cart and other interventions, we were able to keep him comfortable and happy for over a year after his first symptoms emerged. Ultimately, however, Joey’s condition became more severe and spread to the brain, leaving him unable to rise and, on his last day, unaware of his surroundings. Recognizing that we could no longer provide a good quality of life for Joey, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye and helped him pass peacefully through euthanasia.

Remembering Joey, we think of those funny noises he made in his sleep. In a way, they were the sounds of sanctuary: total trust, utter peace, sweet surrender to the pleasure of being alive and safe. Joey loved his home, was good to his friends, and looked out for his herd. Life for him was straightforward, simple, and kind, and he too was all of those things. He will be deeply missed.

Joey goat

Joey on a brisk winter day at sanctuary.

The Passing of a Prince

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet


By Alexandra Caswell, Acton Shelter Manager

He was typically the first resident to greet you. No matter how hot the day or how harried the Los Angeles freeway traffic, you would be hard-pressed to enter the hacienda-style gates of our Southern California Shelter without stopping to admire, photograph, and approach the ever-charming and always regal Prince.

He thoroughly enjoyed the attention, of course. One of the most outgoing and friendliest goats of his herd, Prince relished human companionship. He loved Sunday tours and was especially patient with children, standing completely still while they threw their arms around him and gently touched his floppy ears and long horns. He even let children inspect his teeth! He was an exemplary ambassador for farm animals.

Prince goat at Farm SanctuaryPrince was not only adored by visitors but also deeply loved by shelter staff. Every day he would open the gate for caregivers at feeding time (sometimes letting his herd mates out!). He knew his name and would come running when a caregiver called him, especially if they had his favorite treats (strawberries, bananas and molasses). He loved the sun and spent most of his days on his big hillside, playing and soaking in the rays. His was a blissful existence.

But recent months were hard on our friend. Prince had caprine arthritic encephalitis (CAE), an incurable retrovirus that is transmitted to newborn goats through their mother’s milk. He was diagnosed in 2013. There is no cure for CAE, but we immediately started Prince on immune-supportive supplements, and eventually pain medications, to give him a fighting chance at a longer, more comfortable life. All of his medications and supplements were hidden in his favorite treats, and he would run up to us enthusiastically when it was treatment time.

Sadly, the CAE advanced much faster than we had expected, rapidly taking its toll on Prince’s knee joints over the last year. In the end, he lost the use of his left leg, and his pain became untreatable. Wishing to spare our friend any suffering, we made the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye.

Prince goat at Farm SanctuaryIt was only four years ago that we said hello to Prince. Police officers who pulled over a car for speeding found the two-week-old Saanen stuffed in a bag inside. Prince was seized and brought to the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society. From there we welcomed him to the shelter.

Just as that tiny young goat was gently carried in his new caregivers’ arms when he arrived, so was he surrounded and held by his caregivers as our vet gently released him through euthanasia. Prince was unafraid and left us calmly. He will be missed every day, and our very short time with him will be cherished always.

We have so many stories of caring for and befriending this sweetheart. And we know so many of you do, too. Please share your thoughts and memories of Prince in the comments below.

After all, Prince was someone, not something.

The Indomitable Gloria

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

The Indomitable Gloria

At Farm Sanctuary, we strive to help people understand that every animal is a unique individual. In Gloria’s case, “unique individual” was an understatement.

Gloria was a goat who thought she was a human. She was as joyful as a kid and as cantankerous as an old fogie. She played gleefully with friends but always kept them in their place. She possessed eccentric insecurities and uncommon strength of spirit. It’s been almost a year since Gloria passed away, but we’re still celebrating her life at the shelter.


Trouble at the Racetrack

For the first eight years of her life, Gloria was kept tied up at a horseracing track outside Chicago. Such facilities sometimes keep goats in the belief that their presence calms high-strung racehorses. The goats are seen merely as tools to enhance the performance of their equine companions, and their own needs are often egregiously neglected.

Eventually, Gloria came to the attention of animal advocate Carrie Gobernatz. Carrie had been working to aid the many feral and stray cats, as well as dogs, chickens, geese, and other abandoned animals, struggling to survive on the racetrack’s backside. One day, Carrie came across Gloria in one of the barns. Gloria was tied up on a rope so short she couldn’t lie down, and she had no food or water. Her udders were huge and had sores on them. She clearly needed immediate veterinary attention.


“I was very angry,” recalls Carrie. “To think that vets walked right by her every day to care for the many horses in this barn owned by a very wealthy racehorse owner made me sick.” Carrie immediately lengthened Gloria’s tether, set down straw bedding for her, and brought her fresh food and water. The next day, she confronted Gloria’s “owner” about his neglect. He refused to relinquish Gloria, but Carrie persisted, finding a vet and getting an estimate on treatment for the udders. When the quote of $500 for veterinary care came back, the “owner” changed his tune and agreed to hand Gloria over to Carrie.

Carrie contacted Farm Sanctuary, and we immediately sent a rescue team from our New York Shelter in Watkins Glen. “I was so happy for Gloria, and right before she got on the van to leave, I took that last photo of her with me,” says Carrie, who continued to visit the racetrack daily to help the animals there. After seven years of feeding, spay/neuter work, adoption projects, media outreach, and campaigning, not to mention being kicked off the racetrack more than once, Carrie finally succeeded in getting the racetrack owner to take responsibility for the suffering animals on the backside. The racetrack recently held its first fundraiser for its resident stray and feral cats.


Photo credit: Jo-Ann McArthur


Operation Second Chance

When Farm Sanctuary’s rescue team came for Gloria, we found her in rough shape. Her face and ears had been rubbed bald, and her hooves were long and brittle. The most obvious sign of neglect was the condition of her udders, which dragged on the ground and tripped her whenever she tried to take even a single step. The world she had known for eight years had been cramped, monotonous, and unhealthy. But hope had arrived.

Donate now-blogAt Cornell University Hospital for Animals, a team of vets performed a mastectomy, removing the 19-pound udders from Gloria’s 126-pound body. She recovered well from the operation, and the next day she was able to return to the Rescue and Rehabilitation Center of our New York Shelter. Gloria must have felt like she had acquired not only a new home but also a whole new body. For the first time in years, she could walk without tripping over her own udders. And for the first time in her life, she could walk wherever she wanted.

Gloria’s friend Carrie was among those celebrating her transformation. “I loved the Youtube video you did of Gloria’s rescue and was terribly happy to see her living like a goat should,” she says.

The Humanga

Gloria had been confined and neglected for her whole life, but she was strong. Far from breaking her spirit, the hardship at the racetrack had made her tough and sassy. And she was ready to really live at last. She quickly went from walking to running, bucking, and playing. She loved to play and roughhouse with her human companions, standing up for a head-butting session or bumping her head into a leg only to hold it there.


One thing she definitely did not want was to be around other goats. In fact, she was scared of them. Each time we tried to leave her with other goats, she cried out as if to say, “There’s been a mistake! I’m a human, not a goat!” We nicknamed her “Humanga,” because she was part human, part goat. When she was with people, she wasn’t scared of anything.

We eventually moved Gloria into a pen in the goat barn, so she could see the other goats but didn’t have to live among them yet. We left her door open, so she could roam the shelter. The open space daunted her at first, but soon she realized that the shelter was her playground. Then there was no stopping her. She made a point to visit the farm assistants and stir up trouble while they were trying to clean the barns. We’d get calls over the radio requesting that the Humanga be escorted somewhere less disruptive. She was very special to everyone she knew — a favorite of our caregivers and farm assistants as well as our many visitors — for her unique and powerful personality.


While Gloria kept residence in her private pen in the sheep barn, two little goats named Jake and Peanut started squeezing under the gate to visit her. Perhaps because they were so young and so small, Gloria didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she grew fond of them.

She also developed a soft spot for the elderly and eventually joined a herd of geriatric goat ladies — at the age of ten, she fit right in. They became her family, and she adored them, forming especially close friendships first with Juniper and, after Juniper passed away, with Dotty.

A Very Good Run

During Gloria’s initial visits to the hospital after her rescue, vets had not only removed her udders but also diagnosed her with uterine cancer. They removed the uterus as well, but the cancer had already metastasized. Treatment would not have eliminated the cancer and would likely have decreased the length and quality of Gloria’s life. We decided instead to just let her live and have has much happiness as she could.

The cancer spread very slowly, leaving Gloria several years to do just that. And they were good years. Gloria had fun. She made friends. She made a home. The self that had endured quietly within her during the years of her confinement — the Humanga, the lovable, indomitable force — came out to play. And she played until her very last day. Gloria was indeed someone, not something.


Summer of Goats

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Summer has finally arrived, and the winter chill is fading to a distant memory. With the warm weather and longer days has also come a new phenomenon: Goats have taken over the Internet. Yes, goats. They’re cavorting through YouTube, overrunning BuzzFeed, and bounding into Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds as they play on slides, ride school buses, triumph over adversity, sing the Jurassic Park theme song, and appear unimpressed by British royalty.


Ingrid and Marilyn perfecting goat tomfoolery at our New York Shelter.

Whether goats have risen to popularity due to their curiosity, their irreverence, or their charming sense of rebellion, these charismatic creatures have gained some well-deserved pop-culture notoriety. By the end of June, Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth had declared: “2014 is the Summer of Goats.”

Of course, we’ve always been big goat fans here at Farm Sanctuary. With over 25 years of experience rescuing and caring for animals, we’ve become an authority on all things goat. Although all of the goats at our shelters have been rescued from the sort of hardships that don’t make it into cute, viral videos, these indomitable animals remain some of the most joyful, funny, and fascinating characters you could ever hope to meet. So, join us as we celebrate our goat friends this summer on our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Here are a few of our newest residents to help us begin celebrating the summer of goats.

The absurdly cuddly Totes, an orphaned kid, was rescued by a United States Coast Guardsman.


Our sweet Jordan was raised by a 4-H participant, but he ended up in pain and peril on the streets of New York City. Safe at our shelter, he’s healed and having a blast.


Abandoned at our gate and too small to join our adult goats, Hemingway found an unusual feathered friend — Ryan the gosling.


The cutest goat videos of Farm Sanctuary: